Monthly Archives: July 2020

  • -

Movie Review – Clueless

Category : Movie Review

Director: Amy Heckerling

Starring: Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy

Year: 1995

Clueless may be the most 90s movie to ever 90s, and thank god it did.  It’s more than an icon, it’s a time capsule; what Fast Times at Ridgemont High did for the early 80s it did for the mid 90s, and we’ll always have it to revisit, which is some form of a miracle.  Even 25 years after its summer release, it still holds the power of nostalgia, which shows its lasting impact in the face of so much change.  We will always have Cher, and, I have to admit, I had a major crush on Alicia Silverstone back in the day: The Crush, The Babysitter, Aerosmith videos.  She’s a very special actress, and this is a very special movie, one that you won’t regret revisiting.

Cher has it all; she lives in Beverly Hills, her daddy is rich, she’s beautiful, she’s the most popular girl in school, and she knows that she’s way too good for high school boys, so she’s already got her sights set on the great things that will for sure be coming her way as she ages perfectly.  Cher’s newest project, because she likes to stay busy, is helping the new girl in school to a make over, since she shows promise but is quite unpolished.  All goes well until that girl falls for Cher’s ex-step-brother Josh, who Cher is beginning to see as something more than an annoying college pseudo-intellectual, and who just might teach her that life is more than the mall.

Thank god for Clueless, the feel good movie of a decade that was fun to live in, even if it made very little sense.  The 90s was a time of transition, of growing up into what we could become, and this movie captures that feeling very well.  Silverstone is so lovely and so perfect for this part; Heckerling knew what she was doing when she made this girl famous.  The rest of the cast is fun too: Rudd, Murphy, Stacey Dash, Donald Faison, Breckin Meyer, Dan Hedaya, Wallace Shawn, Justin Walker.  A lot of those actors are ones you know by face but not name, which is fine; they didn’t need to be individually amazing, the film funneled them along quite nicely.  The story speeds by, it’s fun, it’s funny, it’s filled with moments that have become cinema gold, and it’s always here to remind us of a time period that was colorful and crazy, but that we’ll always remember fondly.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Sports – Super Bowl 55 Odds

Category : Sports

The 2020 NFL season has already begun in earnest, at least to super fans, with the opening of Free Agency and the completion of the NFL Draft.  Now it’s on to Rookie camps, Mini-Camps, OTAs, all the prep work for a long & grueling season.  In August we’ll have the start of Training Camps, and in September the Regular Season begins.  The end of the year, culminating in the 55th Super Bowl, might seem a long way off, but February will come quickly, and in Las Vegas at least, odds-makers are preparing to call the game.  Here are the current Super Bowl favorites according to Bovada:

 

1. Kansas City Chiefs

2. Baltimore Ravens

3. San Francisco 49ers

4. New Orleans Saints

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

6. New England Patriots

7. Dallas Cowboys

8. Indianapolis Colts

9. Philadelphia Eagles

10. Seattle Seahawks

11. Buffalo Bills

12. Pittsburgh Steelers

13. Green Bay Packers

14.Tennessee Titans

15. Cleveland Browns

16. Minnesota Vikings

17. Atlanta Falcons

18. Chicago Bears

19. Arizona Cardinals

20. Denver Broncos

21. Los Angeles Chargers

22. Las Vegas Raiders

23. Los Angeles Rams

24. Detroit Lions

25. Houston Texans

26. Miami Dolphins

27. New York Giants

28. New York Jets

29. Carolina Panthers

30. Cincinnati Bengals

31. Washington Football Team

32. Jacksonville Jaguars


  • -

Movie Review – MILF

Category : Movie Review

Director: Axelle Laffont

Starring: Axelle Laffont, Virginie Ledoyen, Marie-Josee Croze

Year: 2018

I could make up a plausible & partly-true lie and say that I watched MILF because it was new on Netflix, I had nothing else to watch, I’m a film critic, it’s my “job”, or something like that, and probably get away with it.  But let’s be honest; I watched because I still have a crush on Virginie Ledoyen from twenty years ago from The Beach, and because, given the title of the movie & the fact that she’s still got it, I figured there was bound to be at least something enjoyable about this random film I’d never heard of.  Turns out I wasn’t all wrong, the three main characters are strong & sexy, but the rest of the flick doesn’t really match up to the potential that was there, or to the expectation of having something worth watching.

Three best friends, Elise, Cecile, & Sonia, head to the French Riviera to clean up & sell a beach house, but also to get a break from lives that are slowly driving them crazy.  Elise is divorced, her daughter splitting time between parents, Cecile has recently been widowed, it’s her summer home the friends are packing up, and Sonia is seeing a married man; all are aging, all are lonely, all are wondering if their best days are behind them.  But then they meet three young studs who are all roommates, one of whom used to babysit for Cecile, and all of a sudden the possibilities seem endless.

This isn’t some National Lampoon goof, it’s not that kind of MILF movie, it’s French and it’s sad and it’s sexy and it’s unusual, but that doesn’t exactly make it good.  At least it’s not a complete throwaway; the acting is fine, the heat is there, there are some funny moments, and I think there’s a point to be made somewhere in there too.  But, taken as a whole, by the time you finish watching, I don’t think you’re going to like what you saw.  It’s a bit crude, a little forced, kinda frantic, and can’t seem to figure out exactly what type of film it wants to be.  Also, the women seem to be so out of touch with young jargon that it comes across as trying to portray 88-year-olds meeting 18-year-olds, instead of hot moms hooking up with college guys.  I don’t know, it almost seemed random how icky or normal they were attempting to say that this plot was supposed to feel to us, which is perhaps just a sign that the director was in over her head, without a clear purpose or direction.  Sadly, since we’re looking for things to do doing the quarantine, MILF isn’t good enough to warrant a recommendation.

My rating: ☆ ☆

 


  • -

Movie Review – The Guest

Category : Movie Review

Director: Adam Wingard

Starring: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Sheila Kelley

Year: 2014

Ever since Matthew Crawley entered my life, I’ve been a Dan Stevens fan; he’s just so damned charming.  On top of that, he’s attractive, he’s captivating, he’s a talented actor & singer; what can’t the guy do?  He may not always make the best film choices, but sometimes he works simply marvelously, often despite the movie itself: The Ticket, Beauty and the Beast, The Man Who Invented Christmas, Eurovision.  He’s yet to be in something spectacular that shows off his spectacular talent, except Downton Abbey of course, but that’s been a while.  The Guest, too, is an alright movie with an alright cast, that was founded on a great idea with a great star.  Cinema is a sum of parts though, and sometimes it just doesn’t add up.

The Petersons recently lost a military family member to violence overseas, and they are still reeling from his death.  He was a soldier, he was doing his duty, but the loss hits hard, and a family in tenuous balance teeters further toward the edge; mom Laura can’t cope, dad Spencer despises his job, daughter Anna is doing drugs with a deadbeat boyfriend, son Luke is getting beat up at school.  Add to the mix a stranger out of the blue, a man claiming to know the Petersons’ son, a soldier calling himself David who comes with a final message of love and the desire to protect a family that he has never met.  But things quickly turn violent when secrets are uncovered and lines are crossed, and no one is safe from the madness to come.

I like The Guest, but I wanted to like it so much more, because the possibility was there.  Dan Stevens is so good, he was so interesting, and he played his character perfectly, setting up the whole thing to feel vague and dangerous and a little sexy.  I was hooked, I wanted to know what the hell was going on, and I definitely was devoted to figuring out who David really was.  But then the whole thing went sideways and the plot lost me because it stopped being actually ambiguous and started being intentionally, annoying ambiguous, and that’s not the same.  It turned into a secret-government-oh-my-god-sir-we-need-to-contain-this type of thing, and that pretty much sucks.  Also, the acting from everyone else involved was downright awful, including from Maika Monroe, who we need to admit isn’t talented to the degree we want her to be.  The Guest is like that; not as polished as we wanted it to be, or at least not pointed in the direction it should have been to get to the place where it would have worked much better.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – The Rescuers

Category : Movie Review

Director: Wolfgang Reitherman

Starring: Bob Newhart, Eva Gabor, Michelle Stacy

Year: 1977

I feel like The Rescuers gets lost in the shuffle when considering great Disney films, since it’s not a princess tale like some classics, nor a well-known story like some retellings, but rather an inventive adventure that has a life of its own, and seems to have taken root with a relatively small number of fans.  It came out in 1977, when Disney was going through a decline after a reduction of animators and the death of Walt, a strange transition period before the Renaissance of  the 90s.  But it still shines with a special light if you remember to take a strong look, still has the power to capture all audiences with its comedy, ingenuity, and its heart.

The Rescue Aid society is a global organization of mice who meet beneath the U.N. building to discuss how they can help solve the word’s problem’s one troubled child at a time.  They receive a message in a bottle, a letter from a girl named Penny who needs help, and doesn’t know where to look for it.  On the case are a very unlikely pair; the beautiful Hungarian Miss Bianca and the lowly American janitor Bernard.  Heading off to the orphanage where Penny was last seen, they embark upon a rescue mission that will take them to the swamps where an evil woman named Medusa seeks out an elusive diamond, and uses a little girl for her greedy scheme.

The Rescuers is all heart all the time; not to say that it’s all warm & fuzzy, it balances tragedy with comedy for sure, but it’s always relying on the emotional play of its scenes, and the emotional vulnerability of its audiences.  But that’s not knock on the recipe; it’s pretty genius to play with our feelings this much.  The brave mice, the sad child, the monstrous villain, the frightening cave, the touching music, the frantic ending; it’s a surprisingly wild ride for such a seemingly tame film.  Newhart & Gabor are perfect, you can watch them again in Rescuers Down Under (with the addition of John Candy and George C. Scott), their chemistry coming through loud and clear with the help of brilliant animators.  And the movie as a whole is just so sweet, and should be absolutely iconic; if more people don’t want to get on board that’s them missing out.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – The Running Man

Category : Movie Review

Director: Paul Michael Glaser

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Richard Dawson

Year: 1987

I am a big Stephen King fan, as I have said a million times, and as you well know if you read my reviews with any frequency.  I’ve read so many of his books, am working on reading every single one during the pandemic because, well, time, and of course I’m a film critic, so naturally I’ve seen a ton of movies based on King novels.  They don’t always work out very well, sometimes it simply doesn’t translate, and that’s never been more apparent than with The Running Man.  The novella is only mediocre, fine by not amazing, but the film version is god-awful.  Not only does it have absolutely nothing to do with the book, but it also requires Arnold Schwarzenegger to be a good actor, which we know isn’t possible, so I think “doomed” would be the word we should be looking for.

Ben Richards is an ex-soldier who was sent to prison for not killing innocent civilians.  With food and fuel shortages, that kind of empathy can’t be tolerated in California, the general public needs to be eliminated if they step out of line, and the dystopic future rolls on and on.  To keep the masses pacified, a giant conglomeration runs the most popular show in the world, The Running Man, where viewers get to see “evil criminals” be killed by talented hunters in the remnants of a blasted city.  Richards finds himself in the clutches of the television program, and he & his friends are sent into the game to die before a live studio audience.  But resistance to this atrocity has been mounting underground for years, and Ben might be the leader they’ve long been waiting for, if he can survive long enough to find them.

So …much …wrong; my god.  First of all, Paul Michael Glaser is Perchik from Fiddler on the Roof and more widely known as Starsky from Starsky and Hutch.  He only directed a couple movies, including The Running Man, Kazaam (lol), and Amazons, a TV movie about “beautiful, large-breasted female warriors”.  That’s just embarrassing, and watching this movie makes it all even more so, because it’s so hideously and ridiculously bad.  It’s based on the King story but follows it not at all, making the show more about arenas, sports, gladiators, that sort of the thing.  The character has the same name; that’s about where the similarities stop.  Then they cast Arnold, which I understand, he was big in the 80s, but he is a terrible, terrible, TERRIBLE actor, and can really only pull off Predator roles and the like.  For the rest of the cast, they decided on …questionable actors and celebrities from other mediums?  Maria Conchita Alonso was a model, Richard Dawson was a game show host, Jim Brown from the NFL, Jesse Ventura from the WWF, Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac; just, why?  This entire film is a giant question mark, a smudge rather than a mark, and one that should probably simply be wiped away.

My rating: ☆

 

 


  • -

Book Review – The Bachman Books

Category : Movie Review

Author: Stephen King

Year: 1985

Four early novels from Stephen King were written under the name Richard Bachman, in order not to over-saturate the horror market, to give King another outlet, and to answer the question of which is more important to success, talent or luck.  It’s an oddity that our favorite oddball writer can afford, and there have been a total of seven Bachman books released, not including this collection of Richard’s first four.  King is at his best when he writes novellas, and these four early experiments exhibit how that skill grew into genius, even if they don’t all resonate at the same strength.  For a casual fan, these stories, with the exception of one, can’t be considered must-reads, but they do help aficionados of King’s work to dive even deeper into his mind, which might be a dark place, but which also remains one of our absolute favorite places.

In ‘Rage’, a high-school boy who grows angrier by the day finally cracks and attacks one of his teachers.  Upon his return to school, he takes a classroom hostage, killing multiple teachers in the process, and holds what can only be described as a come-to-Jesus with his classmates, most of whom understand that depth of his sense of bitter betrayal at the hands of a world that doesn’t want him.  In ‘The Long Walk’, a dystopian society is run by a militaristic tyrant, and the only real way out of poverty in through the annual Walk, in which 100 boys march until they drop and are shot, the last winning a lifetime supply of everything, but at a mental cost that’s not nearly worth it.  In ‘Roadwork’, an aging man who has recently lost his son is about to lose his family home to a freeway project.  His refusal to budge leads him down a path toward murder and madness.  And in ‘The Running Man’, the divide between rich and poor has become so stark and so deadly that those in the lower class must participate in demeaning and murderous television games just to get by, a situation that could lead to bloody revolt.

‘The Long Walk’ is the only spectacular story here that must be read; the others are interesting but don’t pack the same punch.  Interestingly enough, ‘Long Walk’ was the first book King ever wrote, long before Carrie, when he was a freshman in college; it wasn’t published until years later but wow, I wish I had that much talent when I was 18, 19 years old.  That just shows King’s skill, that novella is amazing, among the best of his entire bibliography, and it comes from such a humble beginning.  ‘The Running Man’ in next best, and it was later turned into a terrible Arnold Schwarzenegger movie that resembles it not in the least, so there’s that.  ‘Rage’ and ‘Roadwork’ are just OK, not bad, just OK, full of anger and madness and explosive emotion, but not constructed as well as King would later exhibit an ability for.  Again, if you’re a casual fan of King and his take on the horror genre, you may not care enough to delve into his past; if you’re a super fan like me, read on, because the more you know of the pieces of his world the more you can appreciate every awesome angle.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – Noelle

Category : Movie Review

Director: Marc Lawrence

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Shirley MacLaine

Bill Hader, Billy Eichner, Julie Hagerty, Maceo Smedley, Diana Maria Riva

Year: 2019

Disney+ released a Christmas movie this past year, but I didn’t get Disney+ until just now, AND we did a Christmas in July as a family for my daughter’s birthday, so here we are, watching a holiday movie in the summer during a pandemic because that’s the level we’ve reached.  Noelle is a shot in the dark at elevating the Hallmark Holiday Classic to a level that’s semi-Disney, and to that end it’s surprisingly successful.  It’s funny, sweet, has some touching moments, and, above all, features Anna Kendrick.  She’s the most adorable human on the planet, so why not cast her as daughter-heir to the Kringle Kingdom; she can *almost* do no wrong (and if she does I just blame other people because that’s easier).

When Santa Claus wants to retire, he passes the fuzzy hat down to his son Nick, who definitely does not want to be jolly, old, or a saint.  He wants to be left alone, and, really, for everyone’s sake, he should be; he’s an absolute terrible Santa who can’t do anything right.  His sister Noelle is the one with the Christmas cheer, she’s the one who’s all about all things Yule, though she’s neither the eldest nor a boy, so that’s out of the question.  But when Nick goes missing right before the big day, Noelle is the one who is sent to find him and bring him back, and somehow she becomes the Kringle who captures the essence of Christmas the very best.

What a cute movie, a real up-lifter, and it really is significantly better than the Hallmark features you’re used to loving about this time of year; this time of year being Christmas in July apparently.  A step more movie-like, with a touch more talent involved, Noelle works where others have failed for a few small reasons, including nice comedy and modern honesty, but also for one large reason in a small package, and that would be Kendrick.  She makes everything work because she’s just so damned lovable, and you simply want to watch her succeed.  She’s also naturally funny and fits this role perfectly, so it was a great marriage of skill and type-casting from the very start.  There are a few times the film goes too silly, sure, but that’s a holiday movie for you, some of that just comes with the territory, and most of it should be expected.  Sit back, get some egg nog, feel all the feels, and allow yourself a good time, because that’s what’s being offered, if, admittedly, not too much else.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

 


  • -

Movie Review – Some Girls

Category : Movie Review

Director: Michael Hoffman

Starring: Patrick Dempsey, Jennifer Connelly, Sheila Kelley

Year: 1988

At first, Some Girls feels like a formula we’ve seen far too often; young love, an eccentric family, comedic confusion.  That kind of dramody comes a dime a dozen, and it seems like each new film that fits that mold is simply trying to copy You Can’t Take It With You, just with an artistic twist that’s mostly only bizarre.  But that feeling only lasted until a change in the plot led the characters down a different path, and that created a new atmosphere that was anything but typical.  The film soon morphed into something much more meaningful, much more beautiful, aided by terrific music and a whimsical air.  By the end, I was of two minds, like I had watched two movies, both of them very strange, but only one very good.

Michael and Gabriella dated in college; passionate young love, at least on Michael’s part.  When her grandmother got sick, she left school, and did not come back, breaking his heart, since he thought for sure this was a love you only read about.  Out of the blue, Gabriella invites Michael up to Quebec City for the winter holidays, where her wealthy family owns a large house and will all be gathered together.  Overjoyed to be seeing her again, he flies north, only to be confronted with the fact that she might not love him any more, which begs the question of why she invited him.  But as he gets to know her extremely close (and extremely wacky) family, he learns that fate might have another purpose for his visit, and love comes in many forms.

This was back in the early days for Patrick Dempsey, back when he was a young heartthrob in the making.  He was more than that though, he was a very talented actor, and regardless of what you think of his career choices I do believe he still is.  He sure was in Some Girls, which forced him to carry a fairly heavy plot upon fairly young shoulders.  But he did it, and he did it well, so hats off.  The film starts slowly, typically, the family is weird, the daughters are hot, Michael is confused, young love stinks, blah blah blah.  But it does get better, if you’re patient for a little while, when the story takes another direction and the grandmother character is introduced.  That’s when the message gets a little deeper, and that’s when the quality picks up, if you’re still around at that point.  The film needed to be more rounded all the way through (it’s not our job to outlast the poor parts), but there are pieces to appreciate scattered throughout, especially by the end, which makes Some Girls worth a watch.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

 

 


  • -

Movie Review – Total Recall

Category : Movie Review

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside

Year: 1990

Better than Fifth Element, not quite as good as Starship Troopers, Total Recall is totally bananas, but somehow also kinda awesome.  Its artistic audacity definitely paved the way for the future of over-the-top sci-fi, at the same time as it honored all those b-movies that had come before.  The result is a wonky wonderland of caricatures and experiments that work more often than they probably should, and sometimes verge on genius.  Now, don’t get too excited; this movie is still bat-shit crazy and mostly terrible, since apparently they decided that none of its actors needed to be able to act.  But that doesn’t stop every film, and it definitely didn’t stop this one, a roller-coaster of regret and entertainment that comes at you in wacky waves.

Douglas Quaid is a lucky guy; he’s got a hot wife who loves him, a good job that keeps him strong, some friends to go have a beer with, and he’s far away from the problems brewing on Mars, where a rebel force fights against an evil corporation that looks to exploit anyone who ventures to the Red Planet.  But Doug keeps dreaming about Mars all the same, keeps thinking about going there, even though that makes no sense.  To satisfy the urge, he heads to Rekall, a modern day travel agency that implants memories into your mind so you don’t have to go anywhere special to feel like you’ve been somewhere magical.  Doug wants Mars in his mind, but he also chooses to pretend to have been a spy with a great love affair there, which only costs a little extra.  Problem is, when he receives the service something goes wrong, and now Doug is convinced beyond a doubt that people are trying to kill him, that he actually is a spy, and that he must go to Mars immediately to save the world.

Paul Verhoeven is a cinematic mad scientist, and audiences are his faithful test subjects.  Flesh+Blood, RoboCop, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Showgirls, Starship Troopers, Hollow Man, Black Book, Elle; obviously there are some absolute dogs on that list, but they are experiments all, it’s just that some fail, while somehow others turn into verified cult classics.  He’s fun to watch, at least there’s that, and even Showgirls, considered one of the worst movies ever made, has something going for it; you have to see it at least once.  Verhoeven is something else, and that’s worth our attention, if just to take a break from normal for 90 minutes.  Total Recall is definitely abnormal, and some times downright nutty.  It’s gory, it’s gross, it’s full of practical effects (some questionable), it makes very little sense, and my god is the acting bad.  So is the action, so is the plot, so is the execution, but somehow, it’s hard to say exactly why, the movie works anyway.  It’s so fun that you forgive how bonkers it is, so challenging that you applaud its passion for sci-fi freak-outs.  Verhoeven simply knows what he wants to do and does it, whether it’s the sane choice or not, and quite often we find that we love his oddball ideas because they are so daring.  Total Recall is complete chaos, but also lovable, which is why it has endured this long.

My rating: ☆ ☆ ☆